Disclaimer: IT'S MINE! (No, no it's not. I lied.)
Narcissa wasn't sure what had gotten into her, wasn't sure what had made her throw down her book and head to the floo and shout out "Grimmauld Place!" before her husband had time to react. She didn't know what had possessed her to march down the stairs and shove the door to the kitchen open.
She hadn't seen her sister for years, and her first thought was that she looked much the same. Then it struck her just how much she looked like her other sister, and Narcissa felt a pang of hurt run through her body.
Straightening her back, fully aware of how everyone was staring at her, she fixed her elder sister with a cold look before turning to Sirius. "What kind of a host are you, cousin? Aren't you going to invite me to sit down?"
Remus reacted before Sirius had time to. Standing up, he quickly pulled out the chair next to him for the blonde woman. It wasn't unintentional, of course, as this placed both him and Ted between the two sisters. He shared a look with Pollux, who sat opposite, as Narcissa gracefully slid into her chair. Kreacher appeared a second later with a plate for the woman.
The tentative camaraderie that had begun to develop before Narcissa's arrival had been completely blown out the window by her arrival. Arcturus was frowning even more than before, and silence hung heavy over the room. The two sisters refused to look in each others directions, looking remarkably similar in their wooden movements as they stubbornly ate their dinner.
Pollux raised an eyebrow at the blonde woman sitting opposite to him, but she stubbornly ignored him. Sirius was looking between the two women, and a grin was threatening to break out on his face, but a stern look from Remus stopped him from doing anything. Cassie was prudently eating her own dinner, watching how Harry was picking at his – the boy looked miserable. Arcturus was, of course, frowning.
"So," Cassie began, breaking the silence. "How long have you been working as a healer?"
Andy flinched and turned her head to stare at her great-aunt, as if she couldn't quite connect her hearing to the rest of her brain. "For about ten years," she finally managed to get out.
Over in her corner Narcissa looked as if the mere fact that Cassie was talking to the dark-haired disownee was a grave insult.
Several minutes passed in awkward silence, no one knowing what to say or how to say it. Even Sirius was quiet, though that might have been due to the warning looks Remus kept sending him. Pollux started up another quiet conversation with Remus, picking up where they'd left off. Sirius, now that the silence had been broken, started talking with Ted. Andy and Cissa were still not looking at each other. Several minutes passed, a low hum of conversation covering the room.
Then, Arcturus suddenly cleared his throat, and everyone fell silent again, turning to look at the elderly Black. His expression was even more grim than it had been before – if that was even possible – and his eyes were hard enough to crack diamonds. "Remus," he said, the neutrality of his voice somehow much more frightening than any sort of anger could have been, "would you be so kind to retreat to the library with Harry and Mr. Tonks."
It was not a question, and Remus stumbled up onto his feet before he could make a conscious decision about it, mumbling, "Certainly, sir," under his breath. He walked over to Harry's chair, putting his hand on the boy's shoulder. "Come on, Harry."
Harry shared a panicked look with Sirius. He didn't understand what was going on, and it frightened him.
Sirius glanced at Arcturus stony expression, and sensed a loosing battle. He turned back to the child and smiled at him. "Don't worry, Prongslet," he assured the kid – despite not feeling very assured himself. "It'll only be a minute or so."
Cassie rolled her eyes at her nephew. "That's not what he's worried about, you dolt," she said, for once not hexing him, and then she turned to Harry. "We're not going to send you away, kid."
Harry looked relieved, but there was still an underlying fear in his eyes, and he glanced at Arcturus. He felt Remus squeeze his shoulder comfortingly.
"Come on, Harry," Remus said, "I'll show you around the library."
The soft-spoken man turned to the third part of their little group. "Ted?" he asked. "Are you coming?"
Ted looked reluctant at first, opening his mouth as if he wanted to object, but Andromeda squeezed his hand, shooting him a small smile.
"It's all right, dear," she assured him, not fooling anyone. The look they shared seemed to last for an eternity, and then Ted nodded, rose from his chair, and followed Harry and Remus out of the room.
Once the door closed behind them, Arcturus turned his cold eyes onto Narcissa. "If you choose to stay," he said, piercing through her with his look, "It will be as a Black."
Narcissa met his eyes for a moment, black clashing with blue, and then nodded.
The library was cold and dark, and smelled of old attic. Leading them into the room, Remus conjured a light with his wand in order to be able to see the candles, which he then lit. The room was dust-free – it was one of the rooms Kreacher had never let fall into decrepit ruin – but Remus still made sure to scourgify the two armchairs, just in case. Harry crawled up in one of them, looking around the library with curiosity, but Ted opted for leaning against an uncovered wall, his arms crossed over his chest.
Remus slumped down into the empty armchair, giving Ted a tired but sympathetic look. "I'm surprised you and Andy decided to show up." Had he been in their situation he would've quit the country.
Ted let out a snort. "I didn't want to," he admitted ruefully, "but she insisted."
"Are they going to be all right?" Harry asked, tearing his eyes away from the walls lined with books to look at Remus worriedly.
"I'm sure they'll be fine," Remus assured the boy with a kind smile, not quite believing his own words. Whatever the Blacks were discussing down in the kitchen, he was certain it was unpleasant.
The door to the library opened, and they all looked up to see Andromeda standing in the doorway. Her expression revealed nothing as she turned to her husband. "Shall we head home, dear?"
The Tonks bid Harry and Remus farwell, and then headed for the living room and the fireplace. A few moments later Sirius shuffled into the library. He looked serious, for once, but his shoulders were relaxed and he didn't seem to worried.
Remus raised an eyebrow at him. "How did it go?"
Sirius shrugged. "As well as you'd expect, I suppose." He slid into Harry's chair, picking up the child to put him in his lap. "Both 'Cissa and Andy were as stubborn as they've ever been, and the geezers were just as pig-headed."
"I take it it went well, then?"
"Oh, better than expected."
Harry turned around to look at Sirius. "What happened?"
Sirius grinned and ruffled his hair. "Andy got un-disowned."
Lucius had to admit that, while he did not like seeing his wife in distress, he was secretly glad that she had left. It spared him from having to explain certain things, such as the letter lying open on his desk.
He had a glass of wine in his hand, but he had barely drunk anything from it. He stared at the liquid, but his mind was far away, his thoughts centred around the letter. It hadn't arrived by owl, of course – he knew certain parts of the ministry still suspected him and would not consider themselves above looking through his mail – but had been delivered to a certain part of his lands that only a few people knew about. It had been delivered to him by one of his house-elves, who had very specific orders concerning situations as this one.
The handwriting of the letter was familiar to him. The sender wasn't a close friend of his, but then again Lucius had very few close friends. It tended to be bad for business – as well as survival. He took an absent-minded sip of his wine. The contents of the letter was worrying, but not strange. He shouldn't be surprised – of course they would start worrying, considering how the press had gone on lately.
Aiming another glance at the piece of parchment, eyeing through the words, committing them to memory, he then casually picked it up and threw it on the fire behind him. It wouldn't do for anyone to find it, after all.
The next day Narcissa came over again, and this time – to Harry's great delight – Draco had come with her. The boys immediately went off to catch up after a week of absence, leaving the blonde woman in the living room with Sirius and Remus. Harry, of course, told Draco all about the family dinner that the young blond had missed out on, and Draco, not wanting to be outdone, lead the conversation onto quidditch. Then they went on to write another letter to Neville, having been unable to communicate with the shy boy for ages.
The adults enjoyed tea in the living room, casually chatting and avoiding certain sensitive topics. Andromeda may have been reinstated into the Black family, but Narcissa had yet to reconcile with her sister. Cassiopeia showed up in the afternoon and immediately proceeded to challenge the boys to a game of chess. Despite working together, the boys couldn't quite manage to beat the old witch.
After dinner, which both the Malfoys and Cassie had stayed for, they saw the guests off in the living room, and then Remus retired with Harry to the library, having promised the boy to find him some good books. Sirius went along, just to make sure they didn't trigger some long forgotten trap his crazy parents had left behind.
Throughout the next week Harry, Sirius and Remus met up with Andromeda in the Leaky Cauldron twice, Cassie came over for tea almost daily, and Narcissa pointedly ignored any mentions of her sister. Pollux came over for dinner one afternoon, spending the evening talking with Harry about what the boy had been reading lately. Sirius, of course, spent as much time as possible trying to get under Cassie's skin, ending up getting hexed every time.
"We need to do something about this," Sirius said, grinning despite his smarting ribs. Cassie had gone back to her own home, but hadn't left without leaving a stinging hex for her great-nephew to remember her by.
Harry looked up from his book. "What should we do?"
The animagus' grin had certain chessire qualities to it, and he set off explaining to the boy just how he planned to get back at the old woman. To his delight, Harry seemed to have some ideas off his own, and together they worked out a plan for revenge.
The next time Cassie and Narcissa were over at the same time, the duo made their plan reality.
Cassiopeia looked at the two, taking a sip of her tea. "What are you looking so pleased about?" she asked suspiciously. Narcissa, who was also enjoying her tea, looked curious as well.
Harry and Sirius shared a look, both grinning like mad, and watched the two women expectantly. Cassiopeia, realizing something was up, looked down at her tea with suspicion. Glaring at them, she set it down on the table again.
However, the damage was already done. Cassie couldn't see what was happening to herself, but she could see what was happening to Cissa, and her mouth fell open in surprise.
The two prankters couldn't hold themselves any longer – they burst out in laughter as they watched the women's hair beginning to change colour.
Narcissa's eyes widened as she watched Cassiopeia's grey hair suddenly turn bright red, and with a horrified gasp she grasped a strand of her own hair and watched in terror as her blonde hair suddenly changed into Gryffindor red. She looked up at Cassiopeia again, who looked equally horror-struck in her bright red hair, and then they turned towards the laughing pranksters.
The prank war that ensued in Grimmauld Place ended with no one having their right hair colour – 'Cissa and Cassie realized with horror that their new red hair colour couldn't be magicked away, Harry and Remus fell prey to one of Cassie's revenge pranks which turned their hair a sickly green, and Sirius hair was turned blue by Narcissa, which resulted in him turning Draco's hair pink – several pies had been wasted on faces, and Pollux's robes had started singing. Towards the end of it Harry and Draco had teamed up, and the adults realized with horror that the boys proved to be more ingenious about pranking than Sirius had been at that age. Despite not being able to use magic, they managed to cover Remus in paint, get a bucket of water to fall down over Sirius' head, and with Kreacher's help make Cassie's food ridiculously spicy.
The now colourful bunch were enjoying a moment of respite in the living room, having taken a time out from warfare in order to eat lunch in peace – though Draco's spinach started dancing. Pollux was sitting in one of the armchairs in the living room, his robes faintly humming an upbeat tune. Harry and Draco had finished most of their lunch, and were watching in fascination as Draco's spinach kept dancing – at the moment it was performing an impressive tap-dancing routine. They laughed in horrified delight as Hector, the great sooty owl, suddenly swooped in through the window to eat the spinach, mistaking it for some small animal.
The owl, realizing his mistake, gave the boys a murderous look, dropped of the letter he had been carrying down onto Harry's plate, and flew up to sit in the chandelier to mope. Harry and Draco ignored him, of course, as the letter soaking in leftover gravy on Harry's plate was from Neville.
Sirius looked at the two boys lazily, twirling his wand in his fingers. He then turned to Cassie. "Hey, ginger," he said with a grin, "you know that Longbottom woman, right?"
Cassiopeia, calmly sipping from her cup of tea – which she had thoroughly checked for pranks and hexes before drinking – gave her great-nephew a warning look. She didn't do anything, however, as they had decided that lunch should be hex-free. "Vaguely," she admitted. "We don't exactly have the same social circles." She rolled her eyes at Sirius's blank look. "The Longbottoms have always been followers of Dumbledore and his ilk."
"But you talk to her, right?"
"We converse when we meet, yes. Why do you ask?"
Sirius grinned. "I was thinking of staging a kidnapping."
Augusta Longbottom watched her grandson with affection. She hadn't seen the boy so lively since his great-uncle had given him a tour of the green-houses, and it warmed her heart to see him smile so excitedly as he rushed through his breakfast. Still, she was worried – how she worried about him – as the reason for his excitement was, perhaps, less than desirable.
She didn't know what had possessed her to allow two Blacks and a Malfoy into her home. Cassiopeia, a woman whom Augusta respected, but would never call an ally, had approached her with the idea of arranging a play-date between the boys, who had been writing so much to each other lately. Augusta's first reaction had been to refuse, but she had remembered how happy Neville had been lately, ever since he met with the young Malfoy and Potter. Thinking how how her darling young grandson seemed to have problems making friends, Augusta's determination to not let any relative of one of the ones responsible for her son and daughter-in-law's conditions faltered. Besides, the Malfoy boy was of good stock on his father's side – it would do Neville well to socialize with one from the society's elite.
As a result, it had been decided that the two boys would come over and spend the day, accompanied by Cassiopeia and Sirius. Augusta had been reluctant to let the adult Blacks come, but it had been made clear that Sirius was not going to let Harry go anywhere without him, and Augusta had given in.
The moment the guests had arrived Neville, Harry and Draco went off to Neville's room, talking excitedly amongst each other about everything they could think off. Draco did most of the talking, but Harry, who had gotten more and more sure of himself lately, made sure to include both himself and, to a lesser extent, Neville into the conversation.
As it was getting close to December it was quite cold out, which meant the boys were limited to remaining inside. As the Longbottom Mansion was quite large, it didn't bother them too much, and they were soon off exploring the rooms, pretending to be off out in the world looking for exciting new lands.
Neville, who had something of an interest in botany, started talking about all the strange plants they might find, which resulted in Draco giving him a bored look.
"Who cares about flowers," the blond complained, much more interested in fighting weird monsters and become famous.
Neville visibly deflated, his prior excitement leaking out of him. Harry, who remembered that feeling just a tad bit too well – he'd lost count of how many times hadn't Dudley made him feel like that – glared at Draco.
"I care about flowers," he said, surprising himself with his boldness. "Besides, it's not just flowers, is it Neville?"
Neville stared at the black-haired boy in surprise. No one had ever defended him like that before. "Y-yes," he agreed, a warm feeling spreading through his stomach. "N-not all plants b-bloom."
Draco looked absolutely shocked at having been contradicted, and realized that he had no come-backs. Not so strange, perhaps, considering that he was only eight years old. As a result, he gave in to the two other boys and let them include plants in the game. He did try his best to include monsters as well, of course.
The day passed far too quickly in the boys opinion, and it was only very reluctantly that Draco and Harry let themselves be taken home, and only after having made the adults promise that they'd get to visit again. Even Augusta hadn't been able to say no after having looked at the absolutely delighted expression on Neville's face as he played with his new friends.
Sirius, feeling encouraged by how well it had went the last time, announced that he was going to host another family dinner, inviting everyone again. Arcturus and Pollux declined, apparently having other plans, but everyone attended, and Draco got to meet his aunt for the first time. Andy and Cissa didn't talk to each other, but the dinner went surprisingly well, and the guests even left in a good mood without having hexed anyone.
Taking advantage of the fact that his wife and son were away for the evening, Lucius had donned his cloak and, after barking some orders to the house-elves, he had apparated away. He wasn't worried about the meeting he was headed to, but he knew that it could change quite a lot, and he was going to have to be very careful with his words. After all, it would be highly inconvenient if he made the ones he was meeting with into enemies.
When Narcissa and Draco came home later that evening, Lucius wasn't at home. As it was late, Narcissa tucked her son into bed, hiding the thoughts twirling around in her mind behind a soft smile as she bid her darling good night. Once done, she went down into the drawing room. A small frown was creasing her brow as he waited for her husband to return home.
A/N: I've been pretty good with my updates lately, haven't I? Go me.